by Franz Fuls
Some white water kayakers wear booties. Some do not. Some have soles resembling an elephant’s. Some have fluffy feet. One thing we can agree on is that when it gets cold, we all like wearing booties. For less experienced they become indispensable: Preventing shattered feet from long and regular portages and becoming the traditional dispenser of beer for those unfortunate enough to swim down a rapid!
I have kayaked barefoot, worn flip-flops, sneakers and an array of other footwear while kayaking. Recently I had my first proper bootie experience!
When I told Egon Herrmann about my planned Ash river trip he was psyched. And worried. The Ash has a reputation for cold water, plus we are going mid-winter. He started a frantic online search, and ordered booties from swindle.co.za. Under sheer peer pressure I also bought a set. Read about this strangely named über awesome online shop here.
A classic surfing bootie, we gave it a test in white water. Egon was the perfect lab rat. He put them through their motions with hard long portages through the African bush, a short trial run and more swims than he or I would care to mention. The Excel Reef bootie kept our feet warm and comfortable, offered great foot protection during the portages and stayed on Egon’s feet through every swim. These booties are comfortable, and you soon forget that you are wearing them.
Here are some thoughts we collected on Excel’s Reef Split Toe 1mm Bootie:
- The 1 mm neoprene upper does not promise protection against arctic conditions, but they are perfect for South African winter conditions.
- They are tough. Real tough. And comfy!
- The ninja style split toe has the sole covering and securing your toes together for some obscure surfing purpose involving your leash and toe entrapment. Not much use kayakers but cool nonetheless.
- The upper neoprene has extra rubber armour in all the right places, giving you more protection.
- The cut is slightly higher than a standard low-cut kayaking bootie but does not travel right up to your calf either. Just perfect.
- The Velcro strap wraps around your leg, making for a comfortable and secure fastening mechanism.
- The bungee pull cord right at the top guarantees that no water will enter your bootie during a swim. It wont flood with water and will stay on your feet.
- Tiny vent holes on the side gives you an illusion of breathability, but the designers kept them small enough to keep that bootie beer inside!
Excel has already released their new model and it looks great! You can check it out, together with all their other kayaking and surfing gear right here.
For South African cold weather this will be my bootie of choice on surfing, kloofing and kayaking trips for a long time to come.